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Embracing innovation

Elizabeth de Jong, Director of Policy, Logistics UK

Amidst a year of turbulent pressures and challenges, interest in connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) has continued to grow. Both government and developers are looking towards the application of this technology and trials are now progressing apace. Autonomy is believed by government to hold potential in delivering safety, environmental and productivity advantages, but it is crucial that whatever state investment is made yields positive business cases for industry, or private sector investment will not be made and government investment therefore wasted.

Logistics UK has always been at the forefront of progression, to ensure members are prepared for upcoming changes and to help advance topics that will benefit our industry. Beginning with our first Future of Logistics Conference in 2018, we have been working in this space for several years and, during that time, have put together a vision of what we anticipate the industry needs of the future to be. This includes being flexible and resilient, operating with optimal efficiency, having zero environmental and safety negativities and receiving recognition for its value.

Now, as government’s attention turns towards CAV technology, we have expanded our own work and engagement in this area, in part through the creation of an Innovation Working Group. Members of this group will act as an industry focal point to test government propositions and hear about challenges and opportunities ahead of wider consultations. In this current era, government support is likely to be scaled back as it directs public-sector spending towards repaying COVID-19 response measures, so it is even more vital that any funds and research are invested in the right places if it is to make a difference to the economy, and therefore our sector which underpins it.

Logistics is a commercial industry and, though we accept the many benefits that CAV can bring, we are committed to ensuring that investment in it – as with any technology – be business-case led rather than technology led. To facilitate this, the working group is advising on the kind of problems CAV could help the sector to solve and what government support is necessary to achieve this.

Though the group is in its infancy, it has already outlined several applications for CAV in which we could expect to see the greatest return in investment; for example, vehicle assistance features, in which an automated vehicle aids to support the actions of the driver, and self-service delivery robots. We are now developing and understanding the business case outcomes for each of these applications by looking at the type of benefits they may have, such as increased productivity, reduced congestion or improved safety.

In addition to our work with the Innovation Working Group, the Policy Team is discussing connected and autonomous technologies with members at our Policy Council, seeking views on how these technologies could lead to positive advancements in logistics businesses. Feedback from these sessions will help to inform our response to the government’s Connected and Autonomous Mobility consultation, which is expected to be published in the coming months ahead of anticipated spending reviews in the autumn.

For more information on the Innovation Working Group and our Policy Councils, please see www.logistics.org.uk/councils.

Published On: 22/04/2021 17:00:41


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